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A Closer Look at Personality

Essay by   •  June 12, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,352 Words (6 Pages)  •  3,093 Views

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Personality is a core attribute of an individual, yet it is difficult to define. It is more than the Latin root it is derived from which indicates what others see of an individual; personality includes traits which are consistent and characteristics that change. In an effort to define personality various theories have been developed. Theories have their basis in psychological theories: psychoanalytic, trait, behavioral, and social cognition. The aim of the theories is to provide data that enables professionals to determine how an individual's personality developed and to either predict or control future behaviors.

What Makes up Personality


The word personality has its root in the Latin persona, or mask; persona is what an individual allows others to see (Feist & Feist, 2009). Apart from the root of the word, the definition of personality varies, depending on the theory, which is applied and the theorist applying the theory. Each theory looks at personality as a complete picture with persona as the foundation and behavior, traits, and characteristics helping to complete the picture. Thompson sums up personality as the collection of habits, patterns of behavior, thought processes, and feelings interwoven to provide a view of an individual (2008).

Traits and Characteristics

Personality traits are attributes that remain consistent over time and through varying situations, such as hardworking, honest, or reliable. Traits may be shared among individuals of a particular culture or group but the way they are presented, what Feist & Feist calls a pattern, will be unique to each individual (2009). An example of a trait is witty for a person which seems to always have a snappy comeback; this might be a trait of an individual with an outgoing personality. Characteristics are attributes of an individual which can be linked to experience and education; examples provided by Feist & Feist include temperament, physique, and intelligence (2009). A characteristic of a witty individual with an outgoing personality would be even-tempered or the ability to laugh off anger.

Theoretical Approach to Personality

Theory Composition

In an attempt to define personality several theorists have developed theories. Theories vary but must have the same composition; each theory must be comprised of multiple assumptions that are related. In addition, the assumptions must be stated in a precise and logical manner so as to elicit hypotheses which are testable and falsifiable (Feist & Feist, 2009). The theoretical approach allows a specialist to observe behavior, describe and understand the behavior, and control future behavior (Thompson, 2008). As long as the theory generates research, the data and observations of which can later be explained, it is deemed a useful theory; this theory will be used by others who work with and research personality.

Theory Development

The theory an individual develops or uses as the basis for his or her view on personality will be largely dependent upon his or her own personality; how the theorist views humanity and human nature will affect the understanding and perception of the observed behaviors (Feist & Feist, 2009). Considerations for behavior explanation will include why an individual behaves they way her or she does, whether it is by choice or destiny. Other factors considered include whether it is experience that causes behavior or future goals that dictate behavior, whether biology or society rule behavior, and whether behavior consistent over a large group of people or behaviors unique to individuals within that group should be given the greater consideration (Feist & Feist, 2009). Personality theories are led by various psychologists with their personal psychological approach and theory guiding their personality theory. Adler and Jung were in line with Freud and his psychoanalytic theory; Allport, Maslow, Cattell, and the Big Five approach touched on the trait theory; Watson, Skinner, and Pavlov used the behavioral theory; and Bandura, Kelly, and Endler & Magnusson found their basis in the Social Cognition theory (Thompson, 2008).

Theoretical Approaches to Personality

Psychoanalytic Theory Approach

The psychoanalytic approach to personality contends that personality can only be unlocked only by an individual receiving psychoanalysis with the goal of becoming aware of his or her thoughts and reasons for his or her behavior. How an individual reconciles their desire for an object with their need to do the right thing will lead



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